Publication 2942

Etxeberria A. (1998) Embodiment of natural and artificial agents. In: Van de Vijver G., Salthe S. & Delpos M. (eds.) Evolutionary systems: Biological and epistemological perspectives on selection and self-organization. Kluwer, Dordrecht: 397–412. Fulltext at
Excerpt: The term embodiment suggests a return to the body (or to a physical or perceivable realm) of something that was (but should not be) previously separated from it. This phenomenon can be found in a wide range of contexts; for example, abstract entities, such as computer programmes, may acquire dynamics when executed in material devices; theoretical ideas can become operative when put in relation to practical or contingent situations; or, similarly, when considered as properties of bodies (including brains), mental capacities recover a physical nature. The return we refer to has an explanatory character: it is motivated by an assumption that embodiment may throw light upon areas where disembodied explanations are unsatisfactory. Many scientific and philosophical traditions have postulated privileged realms (e.g. Platonic worlds) deprived of materiality, dynamics, interactions or praxis for explanation, but they priorise the know that in front of the know how and may thus side-step the more complex problems. This is the reason why it is important to explore a differently motivated epistemology, one able to approach phenomena in their original embodied situations. Then, a claim for embodiment would not be a demand for a restitution, but an urge to start from the beginning, from the things themselves.

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